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What are the differences between Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano cheese?

What are the differences between Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano?

They both are long maturation cheeses, widely used in the Italian cuisine. Let’s see the main differences between Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano.

Italians are accustomed to eat both Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano, without thinking about their differences. However, these two cheeses are not the same, even if at first sight it may seem so. It is a matter of taste, but maybe only experts can tell the difference. However, there are many other features that tell the two types of cheese apart. Let’s find out the main ones.

Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano, what do they have in common?

They both are hard cheeses, which means they have a quite low water content, around 30-40% of it. In addition, Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano both are slow maturation cheeses, since they require several months to fully mature.

Another feature these two cheeses share is the calorie intake, which is quite high. There are 400 calories for 100 grams of product, with a slight difference in favor of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Both cheeses are also rich in nutrients such as iron, calcium and magnesium. Now let’s see what are their differences.

Parmigiano Reggiano e Grana Padano
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Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano, the differences

One difference clear to any consumer is the price: Parmigiano-Reggiano is more expensive than Grana Padano. Obviously, there are different reasons why and they are based on the production process and on the specific features of each of these types of cheese.

In order to understand the distinctive features of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano, let’s start from the beginning: their place of production. The first cheese is produced in the Emilia-Romagna region, mainly in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua.

Instead, the Grana Padano cheese has a much larger area of production that includes the Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont and Trentino Alto-Adige regions – besides, of course, the above-mentioned Emilia Romagna region.

With regard to the cows which produce the milk used to make these cheeses, they are fed differently according to the cheese their milk is going to produce. The Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is made using only milk from cows eating hay and grass grown in the production area. Instead, the diet of cows whose milk produces the Grana Padano cheese includes corn silage.

Grana Padano
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How to produce Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano?

Obviously, it is the manufacturing process which mainly distinguishes the two types of cheese. In order to make Parmigiano-Reggiano, farmers milk cows in the morning and in the evening. Its production takes place only once a day, using a mixture of the two milkings. Milk can be refrigerated, but only if the temperature is over 18°C.

Instead, Grana Padano makers produce it twice a day, right after the milkings. In this case, milk can be refrigerated at above 8°C.

Another difference is between these two cheeses is their content. Parmigiano-Reggiano makers only use animal rennet and no preservatives. Grana Padano makers, instead, can use animal, vegetable or bacterial rennet and they can use preservatives – but just lysozyme, a protein extracted from egg whites.

Finally, maturation times: the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, richer in fats, requires at least 12 months of maturation. It can last even over 30 months, making its taste stronger and more structured. Instead, Grana Padano is ready to eat after just 9 months. Its maturation lasts an average of 16 months. This cheese has a more delicate and buttery flavour.

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